I Know I Should Be Using Data, But Where Do I Begin?

The world today is data-driven, and everywhere you turn you’re reminded that you need to be utilizing data to build your business case, to evaluate your options, to make decisions. People make it sound so easy! But if it isn’t a part of your daily routine already, where do you begin? I recently attended a session led by Brittany McKone, Vice President of Analytics at Weber Shandwick, and she gave me an aha moment for getting the ball rolling. It’s as simple as going back to the lessons of your youth when you first learned about the scientific method.

I remember the exact moment I first learned the scientific method: I was in the fifth grade, and the teacher wanted us to try an experiment with celery. We had cut celery stalks, glasses of water and some food coloring…is this ringing a bell? The teacher started out by asking a question: What do you think would happen to the celery stalk if we place it in the glass of water with food coloring added? The scientific process had begun! In case you don’t recall the steps, they include:

  1. Ask a question.

  2. Do background research.

  3. Construct a hypothesis.

  4. Test your hypothesis by doing an experiment.

  5. Analyze the data and draw a conclusion.

  6. Share your results.

This can apply in the context of your work, whether you’re selecting a new software, marketing to clients, launching a new product, evaluating billing practices, etc.

Let’s try a simple example related to training. Here’s how the scientific method could be used: 

  1. Question: Should we implement virtual training sessions for our new e-billing software?

  2. Research: Gather both quantitative and qualitative information. Do you already have other virtual training sessions; how do they perform? What are other law firms doing? What feedback have users given on various training formats? What data exists related to virtual training used in other industries? Asking questions and diving in leads you to the data you need to develop a hypothesis.

  3. Hypothesis: Based on the results of your research, develop an if, then statement that you can test. One possible hypothesis here could be, “If I we present users with the options of in-person and virtual sessions for e-billing training, then 70% of attendees will opt for the virtual training.” You can include multiple hypotheses if you want to test for more variables.

  4. Test: Offer both training options, and be sure to document various data points and gather qualitative feedback.

  5. Analyze: Review all of the data you gathered and use it to draw a conclusion on whether your hypotheses were or weren’t proven.

  6. Share: You’ve done a lot of work to find out, in a scientific way, whether you should implement virtual training sessions. Share your results with anyone who might be impacted – those in charge of increasing or adjusting your budget, those developing or performing training, etc.

Although it may have been decades since you first learned the scientific method, it might be time to apply it to the data-driven decisions you make to better your work, the work of others and the business. More complicated models for the scientific method exist, but you can start with these easy steps to make utilizing data a part of your regular routine. And you just might get that same amazed feeling you got as a kid when you found out the celery stalk changes colors!


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